Cafe Venezia (Coffee with Aschenbach)

 

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Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice cast the city as a decadent, decaying playground of the rich and famous. One would suppose that a cafe bearing the city’s name should be similarly decadent and flashy, occupying half of a piazza while neighboring cafes stare enviously out at the swarm that the spectacle attracts. Caffè Venezia succeeds on all fronts, occupying the piazza like an Austrian-Hungarian army or, more accurately, staying true to its republican roots and avoiding the threat of forced unification until the bitter end.

Or, if you prefer, try this alternate open: can you think of a city in the world that bears as much name-recognition and infamy as Venice? Paris comes to mind, maybe London, but neither of these European capitals conjure up the same mystique as Venice. Paris is the city of love we’re told, but globalization has rendered it a city of excess, of garbage littered streets and faux-fashionability. Venice is different, totally unrivaled in its unique gondoliers who carouse down canals which yearly threaten to engulf the city. It’s mystique is that it could just as easily disappear, vanish from the earth and take its wanton disregard for the Italian state and tourism with it. But we’re not in Venice right now, but in Monopoli, a small town of barely 60,000 residents in Italy’s southern Puglia region. One could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, as Caffè Venezia is so enrapturing both in decor and style that a glance across the piazza at the other shops with their characteristic southern decor: chipping paint, off-white and yellow coloring, worn patio furniture, actual locals… None if it is particularly Venetian, until you pay attention to where you’re sitting. The blue and white patio chairs match the tables and look polished, the cafe’s interior features the expected painted depictions of canals and Piazza San Marco and the whole experience feels downright Venetian.

The cappuccino is to be expected, remarkably good and typically Italian, and my little heart-shaped pastry, which I received in lieu of my requested cornetto, is nice and crispy. There are no young blond boys with which to spy at across the piazza but it is my opinion that were Aschenbach here he, like me, would be too enraptured by the Venetian aspect of it all to notice any angelic boys frolicking on the beach or in the piazza, nor would he notice any signs of plague. Even if he had, once he’d experienced Cafe Venezia what more in life could he ask for?

 

Address Piazza Garibaldi 18/19 Public transport N/A: It’s small town in Italy – you can walk.

Opening times As this is Italy, my putting up the hours would be pointless. Opening and closing times are completely up to the whim of the owner.

Cost € Telephone 080 849 4993 Website  N/A

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